We’re going to go ahead and publish this post with the full recognition that the tables are awful. We’re trying to figure out how to make it work, but rather than wait until we do, we figured we’d at least get the writing out there, with the hopes that the data will follow. If you want to look at it yourself, any information cited in this article can be found on this Google document.
The Carolina Gamecocks opened the season with an 82-75 overtime win over the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers on Sunday afternoon. While anything but pretty, as Coach Martin himself said, all wins are better than all losses. However, the game also laid bare some issues that will continue to arise for Carolina all season.
Let’s look at what happened:
What Went Right
Two words: Carrera and Kacinas. They led the way on the glass, allowing Carolina to pull down 50% of its misses and holding UWM to a OReb rate of 32.4. This gave the Gamecocks plenty of additional chances to score.
The other thing that went right? Free throws. Carolina took those extra opportunities not from the field (UWM had 67 FGAs to the Gamecocks 63), but from the stripe. Carolina shot 84% from the line and outscored a woeful shooting Panther side (47%) by a score of 26-9 from the free throw line, a 17 point difference that will keep them ruing missed opportunities.
But back to Carrera and Kacinas. Carrera was ridiculous on the glass, grabbing 38.8% of Carolina’s misses while he was on the floor, and 33.6% of the Panthers misses for good measure. He shot efficiently (eFG of 50%) and took shots, accounting for 29.6% of Carolina’s shots while on the court. He added a 5-5 effort from the free throw line, and three blocks. That’s filling up the stat sheet.
Kacinas also made a huge difference, though only on rebounding, grabbing 31.1% of the Gamecock’s misses while he was out there, and 27.5% of the Panthers. However, Kacinas didn’t add much else, shooting only 3 times (6.9% of the shots taken while playing). He and Slawson both were black holes on offense, and since they will frequently substitute for one another, both need to find a way to get more involved.
Lakeem Jackson also added a good shooting night, going 6-10 (eFG 60%) from the field.
What Went Wrong
While there are studies that show you don’t control the 3P% of your opponent, you do control the number of threes they take, and South Carolina gave up 33 shots from downtown to the Panthers. The fact they made those shots at a 42% rate is what kept them in the game, and what nearly sank the Gamecocks. You could tell the defense tried to adjust in the second half, but UWM took 12 3-point shots in the first half and 11 in the second, so it didn’t seem to do enough. That may be their game, and sometimes you’re stuck defending the 3 all night, but Carolina needs to do a better job of not giving up that many shots from outside.
The Gamecocks also won’t be happy with their 44.4% eFG from the field. Simply put, Carolina didn’t make enough shots in the first half, and it nearly killed them. Watching, I didn’t think the shot selection was all that bad, but you have to have them go in. It’s a skill, and one that may be difficult for us to dramatically improve upon throughout the year. The offensive rebounding and free throws save our skin on this night, but those (especially the ORebs) may not be there future games.
Individually, LaShay Page showed he was more than willing to carry the load on offense, taking 36.7% of the shots available to him. However, he’s going to have to improve on the 38.9% eFG he posted. I think he will – his play improved as the game went on. That said, and especially if some guys aren’t going to get involved in the offense (see above), we need someone who can efficiently use possessions, and so Page needs to make a few more shots so he can be that guy. It’s asking a lot of him, but this is a team that’s going to ask a lot of guys who wouldn’t be asked to do those things on better squads.
Where We Were Right
To show we’re accountable for our predictions, we’ll try to summarize some things we got right and wrong in our previews. In this game, we feel good about our score prediction (we picked UWM by 2, which is not far off from an overtime game), and noted that we thought the free throw line would be an area Carolina showed improvement.
We also hinted that Carrera would play often and well, though I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams predicted the type of night he put in.
From the UWM side, while I thought after watching that Haarsma seemed quiet on the evening, he ended up with a double-double (14 points, 10 boards), shooting 66.7% eFG. In fact, you wonder if UWM doesn’t wish that Haarsma had taken 24 shots on the evening, rather than Aaron.
Where We Were Wrong
So, we didn’t really warn you about Jordan Aaron. He lit up the scoreboard on 9-24 shooting, which given his 7-14 mark from three, gave him an eFG of 52.1%.
Also, when we suggested you might not trust Brenton Williams late in a game? Sorry, Brenton. (How did we get this far and are only now mentioning Williams?). Five of his 13 minutes came in overtime, and he made them count – taking 33.0% of the shots while on the court (at a 50% eFG), but more importantly posting an absurd FTR of 133.3 (aided by the team ensuring he was the guy on the line late), and when he got there, making them count (8-8 from the line, all of them important).
UWM is not going to be a major player in the Horizon League this season, but in a year like the Gamecocks seem set to have, you want to accumulate wins however you can get them. The team has flaws and will continue to have flaws, though they should show improvement along the way. It’s a year where .500 looks like the right answer, and so grabbing close wins gives this team the chance to play past the SEC Tournament, even if it’s not in the NCAAs. I think most folks would call that a successful season, and this is the first step toward making that happen.
We’ll get a preview of Morgan State up tomorrow.